August 12, 2006

Living here in Arizona, it’s easy to take for granted the joy the quiet hum of cool air circulating in your home or business brings. Hence, the kind of silence one typically might long for at, say, a monastery or church is not only highly unwelcome, but during the months spanning May and October, absolutely feared.

I write this because we experienced the “dreaded silence” this past Tuesday night. We were having one of our typical early morning thunderstorms (for some reason, out here in Arizona during the monsoon season you often get your storms not in the late afternoon, but in the hours between midnight and 6 AM; why that is is a matter for another time), which set in motion a chain of events that, were they not so stressful and aggravating, would be seen as almost comical:


4 AM – After a close bolt of lightning and accompanying rumble of thunder, an uneasy quiet falls over the house. I sit up in bed with a start. “Shit!”, I say, “we’ve lost our A/C”. Tracey grunts and rolls over. Rather than panic immediately, I take a quiet breath. I check the alarm clock – it’s still working. “Double shit!”, I say to myself, we didn’t lose our power, which means we’ve lost only our A/C – in an Arizona summer, not a good thing.

4:15 AM – In cases like this, the first thing you do is check the circuit breakers – perhaps the lightning caused them to switch. I go outside in the pouring rain armed only with my trusty flashlight. I find the panel and flip the breakers off and on. Back in the house it’s still quiet, the only sound the pattering of rain on the windows.

4:30 AM – “Houston, we have a problem.”, I tell Tracey. “Our A/C is officially off.” Knowing that the Fidelity Home Warranty office – which would be our first call – doesn’t open until 7 AM, I lay back in bed, wondering exactly what the coming day will bring. Having experienced this before, odds are it won’t be pretty.

4:45 AM – I sit up sharply. “Wait a minute”, I say to no one in particular, “losing your A/C in Arizona qualifies as an emergency at Fidelity!” I dash to the phone and call Fidelity, getting their office is closed message, but – BUT – I can press 4 if this is an emergency involving plumbing, electricity, or A/C. Excellent. I press 4, but only get another message saying the office is closed until 7 AM. I slink back to bed and sleep fitfully until the witching hour.

7 AM – I call Fidelity and give them all the details. They inform me a company called Certified A/C will call me within three hours. I tell the service rep that in three hours my house will already be starting to heat up, to no avail. The waiting game begins.

11 AM – It’s been four hours, and the house has warmed to over 80 degrees. Finally, the phone rings, and it’s Vince from Certified A/C. He tells me Fidelity gave him the wrong number, which is why he’s been delayed. “Don’t worry”, he assures me, “I’ll be there between 12 and 5.” I ask if he can’t get here sooner. “I’ll be there between 12 and 5.”

2 PM – The house is at 85 degrees, and I’ve brought out the fan for the rabbits, who are starting to get uncomfortable. Vince arrives, and immediately sets out to assess the situation.

2:30 PM – Vince reappears, soaked from head to toe in sweat. “Kinda hot up there!”, he says. “Yeah, it’s getting kinda warm down here”, I reply. Vince gets right to the point. “Bad news”, he says, “your blower motor, contactor, and control board are shot. I’m off to the Carrier store to see what I can get for parts, but I doubt I’ll be able to get them before next Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest.”

“That’s ridiculous”, I reply. “Hell, Fed Ex and UPS can send anything overnight. I’m sure that includes A/C parts.”

“I dunno”, sniffs Vince. “I’ll give you a call in an hour or so once I find out what Carrier and Fidelity says. As it is, it’s a two-man job, so I wouldn’t be able to get to it until tomorrow at the earliest. Oh, and sorry I made a mess of your laundry room.” I write Vince out a check for $45 (the Fidelity service fee) and watch him drive away. The laundry room is covered in pieces of foam insulation, and as I’m sweeping it up, I know I’m in for a long night.

4:51 PM – The only silence in the house is the lack of communication from Vince, as portable fans are whirring everywhere. Outside, the temperature is 103; inside it’s 89 degrees. I call Certified A/C, and get their message that the office is either closed or they’re on another line. I look at the clock. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out what the likelihood is. I leave a message and hope for the best.

6 PM – I’m off to Lowe’s to find me a portable room air conditioner, as the thermostat is now officially off the chart. Turns out these suckers are VERY expensive, and there’s no way I’m spending $300+ for a short-term solution. I get me one of these Korean $60 dorm window units and hope I’ll be able to patch together a solution for the rabbit room.

7 PM – The Korean plastic/metal solution fires up and cool, dry air starts pouring out the front, hot, sticky air out the back. Because we don’t have windows that go up and down, but sideways, we can’t put it in the window, so we place it on a pet carrier and point our portable fan back towards the house to disperse the unit’s hot air. We nail a comforter over the room’s opening (it’s an open room without doors) and drape the bottom over the top of the fan.

8 PM – Our temporary solution seems to be somewhat working – the room has “cooled” to the low 80s with good air movement – but we’re paying a hideous price, as the rest of the house is slowly being transformed into a murky Louisiana-like swamp. I don’t know how hot the rest of the house has become, but I know that it’s very close (if not warmer than) the temperature outside, which I’m guess is between 95 and 100.

10 PM – It’s bedtime, and Tracey and I disperse – Tracey in the room with the rabbits, me in a closed-off north room whose door has been closed all day. I put the ceiling fan on high, and try to sleep, knowing I’ll need all my energy for whatever will be coming my way tomorrow. The room feels like it’s around 90, so sleep does not come easily.


7 AM – The phone rings. It’s Vince. “Didn’t Fidelity call you yesterday?”, he asks. “I haven’t heard a thing, from you or them, Vince”, I reply. Vince then goes into this long schpiel that starts with, “You’ve got big problems.” He tells me I’ve got mismatched equiment in the house because of a 1-ton variation between my A/C unit’s outside condensing unit (5 ton capacity) and the inside evaporative coil in my attic (4 ton capacity). He says Fidelity won’t pay for any repairs because they consider it mismatched equiment, and that to match it up will cost at minimum FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. “It could be more”, Vince cautions me, “if I have to replace the unit in your attic, the only way that sucker’s gonna come out is through your roof, so the repairs could end up running somewhere in the vicinity of NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS.”

I’m in a state of shock, and the coffee hasn’t even been made yet. “That’s a hell of a vicinity”, I reply. “What should I do?”

Vince’s strength is obviously not: a) customer relations, or b) pastoral care. “It’s not for me to say, but you better tell me what you want me to do. As it is, I won’t get the parts until mid-week.” There it is again, I think to myself, that mid-week thing again. I tell tell Vince I’ll call Fidelity and get back to him.

7:30 AM – “Bear, wake up – we’ve got a big problem”, I yell over the combined whir of the A/C unit and fan. Tracey is barely awake, but not for along as I tell her exactly what Vince told me. The world seems to be crashing all around us. “I’ll make coffee”, I say. “I’ll call Norwegian and cancel the Hawaiian cruise”, she replies, “at least we’ll get 5K back there. I don’t see what else we can do.”

“You’ll need to get a hotel room for you and the rabbits”, I tell her, “this’ll be no place for you or the rabbits if we’re gonna be out of commission for a week.”

8 AM – I take a shower to clear my head. I notice no difference between the shower and the air I step out into. The hot coffee is not exactly refreshing, but it steels me for my call to Fidelity. I get customer service, then am passed along to authorizations. A pleasant guy named Jeremy tells me exactly what Vince told me: that they won’t cover any repairs to correct the mismatch in equiment. But, “because you’ve been a good customer for us these past three years”, he says, “I am authorized to write you out a check for $306.10 to cover half the cost of the parts needing replacement, and should have it by next week.”

Tracey’s hearing this conversation, and starts grabbing numbers for our home insurance agent. I tell her to start looking for a lawyer, as I’m already thinking about calling our house’s original builder. Jeremy tells me that’s the best Fidelity can do, and that, unfortunately, I’m on my own as to where I take it from here.

What happens next? Stay tuned for part II of “White Hot, A/C Blue”….

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 13:32 | Comments (2)
  1. Sorry to hear of your troubles, GWS, but I would also be on the phone with a lawyer. Someone mismatched that equipment, didn’t disclose it (I assume this wasn’t disclosed to you), and has to be responsible for it. We dealt with hot, humid Louisiana summer with no AC for two weeks last year. That was miserable and I have to think Arizona must be worse. Good Luck.

    Comment by Rob — August 12, 2006 @ 8:24 pm

  2. Sorry to hear about your troubles, bro.

    Hope all the problems will be worked out shortly.

    Find the nearest ambulance chaser and get him / her on the case immediately!

    Comment by Dave Richard — August 13, 2006 @ 9:02 am

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